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Understanding management

Farm-owning women seek confidence in managing land use

April 29, 2012
By KRISS NELSON, For The Messenger , Messenger News

Leigh Adcock, executive director of Women, Food and Agriculture Network, it has been estimated that nearly half of the farmland in the U.S. is either owned or co-owned by women and yet many consider themselves as not appropriately informed on the issues that surround agriculture and land land ownership, including conservation.

Adcock spoke to an online audience last week, through a webinar sponsored by the Iowa Learning Farms.

Adcock's presentation "Women Caring for the Land," said WFAN's program is designed to be a source for conservation education and how to implement those methods on to their own land.

The mission of the WFAN program, Adcock said is, "to link and empower women to build food systems and communities that are healthy, just, sustainable and promote environmental integrity."

Currently WFAN has more 2,000 members throughout 25 states, with more than 700 Iowa members. Members include a diverse age range and consist of farmers, urban gardeners, environmental educators, community activists, academics and others concerned about food and environment issues.

WFAN currently provides a newsletter, holds conferences and field days and two programs, "Harvesting Our Potential," an on-farm apprenticeship program and the "Women Caring for The Land" program.

Adcock said that there is an ever-growing number of women landowners in Iowa.

"47 percent of the land was owned or co-owned by women in 2007 and that is expected to rise over 50 percent when it is evaluated again this year," said Adcock. "It is an interesting trend to watch."

Although most women are less likely to be the actual operators of their land, and are more likely to lease their acres to others, Adcock said they still express strong conservation values, but find it difficult to attain the proper information and support at times.

"In agency offices, women often feel overlooked," said Adcock. "In older age groups, they find social dynamics are in play - they are hesitant to talk to tenants about conservation."

According to WFAN, thanks to initial funding in 2009 from the McKnight Foundation, and continued support from FarmAid and the Ben & Jerry's Foundation, a pilot project with women who owned farmland in Johnson, Jones and Linn counties were invited to participate in a free series of meetings designed not only to give them information about the various conservation and resource management techniques available to them, but also to help them gain confidence in negotiating these changes with tenants.

The program included a field day to view conservation efforts and challenges on local farms. With a positive response, WFAN has hopes to expand the program to as many counties as funding will allow. Adock suggested contacting WFAN at (515) 460-2477 to schedule a program within Iowa.

During the pilot year, 50 percent of the women took action and, from 2011 meeting, 66 percent of women who took the course took action on improving conservation on their farmland, which included creating wetlands and wildlife habitat.

The program consists of a women-only, peer-to-peer meeting at the beginning of the day.

This part of the meeting, Adcock said, is the cornerstone of the program.

After the peer meeting, resource people from various agencies, will be on hand to help with questions. Program typically end with a field tour, Adcock said.

WFAN has also worked with Practical Farmers of Iowa to help women with transitioning their land.

In these meetings, Adcock said landowners meet with beginning farmers, mainly for conversation, but in some cases, new landowner-tenant agreements have developed.

More information about WFAN can be found by visiting www.wfan.org.

Contact Kriss Nelson at jknelson@frontiernet.net

 
 

 

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